Monday, December 20, 2010

Help a single mom this Christmas

This is my unabashed plea for you to help out a single mom this Christmas. These are my people, and frankly, we need you to get through the holidays. Not until I went through my divorce did I realize that Christmas is not merry for many people. Rather, there is a vast, wounded group of people for whom the holidays are a piercing reminder that their lives have not turned out how they wanted them to be.  At all.

For single moms, we have the strange reality of every other Christmas kind of being how we’d hoped, but not really. For the years that we have our kids, we smile and do all we can to make it a happy time for our kids. But, staying up half the night putting together the toys by yourself and then watching your kids open the gifts the next morning by yourself still isn’t what you had planned.

For the years we don’t have our kids, we try a variety of coping mechanisms: staying in bed all day, putting on a happy face and showing up at the extended family celebration, serving a meal to the homeless (“oh yeah, things could be worse for me.”), eating chocolate, drinking wine, or eating chocolate and drinking wine. I am ashamed to admit that there has been more than one year that my mom and I have ended up drinking martinis in a bar on Christmas day. Just as I always dreamed my Christmases would be as a mom.

So, if you’re in the giving spirit this Christmas, don’t forget your single mom friends. Here are some practical ways you can put some merry in their Christmas:

Help with the Christmas tree. Now, most of us single moms have figured out how to kill bugs, change light bulbs, pay bills, negotiate with a mechanic and do a little plumbing by ourselves, but there is just no way to get a Christmas tree down from the attic by ourselves. If it’s too late to help her get the tree down, don’t forget, we need the same amount of help to cram the tree back up there.

Call your single mom friend when your family is going to dinner. Sounds simple, but we single moms are often quite desperate for some adult conversation while eating a meal with our children. And, if you’re headed out to look at Christmas lights, invite your single mom friend to come along.

Help put together toys.
This is a tough one because most people don’t have much patience for putting their own kids’ toys together, but WE NEED HELP. The year I bought my son a ping-pong table (oh yeah, those require a ton of assembly), I asked the men who I hired to deliver the table to assemble it.  Not good. After two hours of watching them shove poles together, cram screws in holes and twist various parts, all without ever looking at the instructions, this is what I was left with:

Seriously. I just told them to leave. I then, no joke spent two hours taking apart all that they had done and starting from scratch – with the instructions.

Take your single mom friend’s kids out to buy her a gift. Most of us single moms don’t have anything with our names on it under the tree. Sad, but we get used to it. One of the kindest things you can do – both for the kids and the mom – is to take those kids to the mall and let them buy her a gift they can be proud of. (As an aside, if you are a single mom, I strongly recommend that you take your child out to buy a gift for their father. It is simply the right thing to do. For years I’ve let my son pick out whatever he wanted for his father. His father is the proud owner of a darling singing Christmas otter, a super cool Spiderman bathmat and a precious musical Christmas tie.)

Recognize that Christmas can be a hard time for a single mom. Don’t offer her the usual “Merry Christmas” when you see her this holiday season. Ask her what her plans are. Tell her you realize it must be a difficult time for her. Having someone simply recognize that our holidays are not easy means a lot to us single moms.

To any of my friends reading this, please note that my Christmas tree will need to return to the attic by Jan. 6; I’m giving my son a new gaming system that’s going to require figuring out what gets plugged in where among the tangle of wires coming out the back of my TV; and I love gift certificates for manicures and pedicures. Just sayin’.

Laura Johnson is a single mom and freelance communicator who lives in East Dallas with her 11-year-old son spreading holiday hope for help for single moms everywhere.

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